The theology of Sandy
Last night I was finally able to talk to my family on Long Island to see how they were doing in the aftermath of hurricane/superstorm Sandy. My two Long Island-based sisters and my two nieces and their families were all together at the house of my one sister who had power. The other sister was thankful that, although she had no power in five days, her house had survived undamaged. My one niece who had the basement and ground floor of her home flooded was thankful that, in spite of the terrible damage, her home was still standing when so many weren’t. They were all thankful they were together and well.
All this has me thinking about the theology of storms. With a little effort this morning I was able to findon the internet a lot of Christians who were quite positive that the storm was the judgment of God. There was no such agreement as to what God was judging the northeast for. The leading candidates I found were homosexuality, secularism, pornography and materialism. I’ve decided not to give you the links for these pronouncements because I doubt you really want them.
I am a little amazed how some of my brothers and sisters can be so sure about such things. It is true that, in the Old Testament, storms are often seen as God’s judgment. The Egyptian Pharaohs come to mind. Then again both Jonah and Job cite stories where storms seem to be used to get the attention of His followers.
Jesus changes the game. In Exodus storms show the sovereign power of God. Jesus, however, stills a storm to show His sovereign power. Paul too looks at the shipwreck he endures as an opportunity for God to show His power, not as judgment. In the book of The Revelation we see lightning, thunder, hail and an earthquake at the revealing of God’s heavenly temple. There is no real New Testament support for the “judgment” theology of storms in this age.
This does leave us with a problem however. If God is sovereign over storms, why did Sandy do so much damage? Good question. Let me first say that all religions have trouble on this point. Islam is still hung up on the judgment theory. Imams across the middle east have called Sandy a judgment on American infidels. The eastern religions abandon the judgment theory but do little better. For them it is all about karma. In that theory, if your house got destroyed you had it coming.
If we Christians admit that we don’t have any idea why God let this happen, atheists are even worse. They are equally without explanation but add meaninglessness to the equation. It is like they say “I’ll see your cluelessness and raise your bet with despair.”
Not knowing what God is doing in life’s events is the human reality. While storms force us to confront our ignorance the reality is that, day-by-day, in the calmest of circumstances, whatever we go through, we really cannot understand God and His purposes. I am encouraged that my family focused on what they were thankful for. Our call is not to understanding but to faith. After Jesus calmed the storm His words to the disciples speak to us today. “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Mark 4:40.